TOP 10 SINGLE ATTRIBUTES BY PASE, 1985-2007, (100 or more appearances, no attribute repeats)



It happens every year, doesn’t it? Somebody with no more knowledge of college basketball than the colors of the school’s jerseys comes out of nowhere to win your tourney pool. They pick UCLA because they’ve heard that John Wooden’s a pretty good coach. They confuse George Mason with George Washington. They have a hunch about Butler. At every turn, they thumb their nose at conventional tourney wisdom…and get rewarded for it. And when you try the same devil-may-care strategy? You go down in an opening-round ball of flames.


Why is it that the people with the least knowledge of college basketball seem to win tourney pools at such an alarming rate? Is it all just dumb luck? Considering how much work I’ve put into solving the statistical mysteries of March Madness, that’s a pretty deflating idea to contemplate. But it’s a valid question—and one that was recently addressed in a roundabout way in Blink, Malcolm Gladwell’s national bestselling book about decision-making.


What Gladwell discovers, in his own words, is that “on straight-forward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated—when we have to juggle many different variables—then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.”


That might seem counter-intuitive, but Gladwell offers several examples of how …


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